Admittedly, I was a city girl with no experience of gardening when I bought my house 31 years ago. Over the years, however, I have planted no less than 250 shrubs and trees.
My yard is relatively large, my house being over 70 years old and built before tract housing came to New Jersey. I don't know feet and yards, but my backyard borders the substantial yards of three other properties.
My property is pie shaped, so at the front, I have only a dozen sidewalk squares and a driveway, but we expand out in the back like a fan shape.
Over the years I have come to deeply love my yard and the residents thereof, the old trees, the wild roses on the back fence, the wild flowers that bloom in the grass, white ones, buttercups and dandelions, are all welcome to visit me. And to feed the neighbors, squirrels, opossums, birds of many kinds, and rabbits.
Most of my planting originally came from holidays, the Mother's Day azaleas, the root ball Christmas trees we always bought, my daughter and I, until I got too old and tired to dig the holes and haul out the heavy trees after Christmas was over, and had to go to an artificial tree, which is an Appalachian styled tree I bought in West Virginia. I could never go for cut trees, a beautiful healthy young tree killed for a week in a holiday.
Anyhow, one day, on NPR, I heard a great garden show and mention of the concept of Permaculture. I bought a book about it and it got me to thinking about the ways we can live in harmony with our natural world. Now, my yard is a natural yard in the sense that I have lots of trees, shade, little grass in front, and patches in the back, but I didn't know enough to think of planting native species when I did my plantings. I got lucky in one way, I have always loved holly bushes, and they are both native to New Jersey (see Elizabeth White of Whitesbog and her career in holly culture) and happy with our sandy soil. I have half a dozen in my yard.
One way that I got unlucky was that I planted ivy to fix a mud pit in one section of the yard beneath a big old tree. The ivy, like the British Empire, spread to all parts of the yard, and one summer, several years ago, I spent $600 getting it pulled out. It is an invasive species. It did however fix the mud pit, and now I keep it trimmed back.
This past weekend, one of my friends was volunteering at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance Annual Native Plant Sale, which sold out the first day leaving many disgruntled shoppers with nothing to buy. It is encouraging to think that native species are becoming more popular and that people are thinking that way.
I have had many disagreements with friends who cut down their trees to dispense with leaf raking in fall, and who poison dandelions. How could anyone look down into that hopeful and radiant little yellow face and poison it? I don't know, but then I am not and never have been a fan of what I think of as the boring golf course style lawn - give me the wild and free and diverse!
Speaking of gardens and trees however got me to thinking of South Jersey's oldest arboreal citizens, which of course makes me think of the Salem Oak which I have visited many times. I copied information on other largest and oldest trees in South Jersey, and tomorrow when I have more time I will post what I copied.
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contact me to talk about old trees, gardening or any of my other posts.
I've got to go now - heading out to dinner with a friend for her birthday, and to an Art show at the JCC in Cherry Hill in which a friend of hers has work on display. Tell you about it later -